Having a bet this weekend? Make sure you understand the odds!

Posted in: Consumers, Research, Research4Good

As we build up to a big weekend of British football, many people will be upping the excitement by betting on their favourites to win. But how susceptible are we to clever marketing from the bookies, and how much do we really understand the odds? Arman Hassaniakalager of the University of Bath School of Management examines the stakes. 


The last time the Champions League had an ‘all-English final’ was more than 10 years ago. A lot has changed since then, both on the football field and in the football-related gambling world. You just need to walk past a gambling shop or spend a few seconds on Google to find a cool ad telling you how lucky you will get if you predict who will raise the championship cup this weekend: Tottenham or Liverpool?

You might have your favourite bookie and follow their odds, but the average odds from 48 bookies around the globe show that Liverpool are the bookies' favourite. At the time of writing, the odds* for Liverpool to win is 93 to 100 meaning that if Liverpool wins, the bookie will almost double your money.

Now if you’re a Tottenham fan, you may not care that much about the odds or Liverpool being the ‘favourite’. You might be quite confident that your team will rock it. If you and your team beat the odds, an average gambling shop online or down the street would almost triple your money (odds 82/25*).

Betting on which team will win is pretty simple in gambling terms. But once you start looking, the betting companies might well encourage you to go bigger. How? You could guess how many goals Tottenham and Liverpool are each going to score. If the match ends up 2:1 for Tottenham, the bookie will be giving you back ten times what you bet. Fancy more? If the final whistle blows 3:2 and the cup ends up in London, a generous bookie will return your original stake and make it 35 times bigger. Bet a fiver and win £180*!

If you've read this far, you may feel like I'm just throwing you a bunch of numbers one after the other…and indeed, you got me. That is how gambling shops draw you into their game. I've told you a lot about how much you might win and how good you could feel, but never forget that the gambling coin has two sides, and at the end of 90 minutes you might be facing a very different scenario.

While betting is generally advertised as fun, those complicated bets – for example getting the right number of goals for each team – are way riskier than you probably imagine. This means you could end up losing an awful lot more than you might think.

Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman believes humankind, in general, is really good with processing languages but not that good with very small numbers. We tend to overestimate the likelihood of events occurring that actually have fairly high odds against them,  like predicting the chance of a team winning a game or the number of goals for each team. How is that going to affect your bets? We did  research on different types of bets in the English Premier League and found that certain types of bets can result in you losing up to 50 times if you get drawn into gambling addiction.

I can't tell you which side to bet on this weekend, but I hope I've helped to bring a slightly different perspective to gambling, one which will cause you to stop and think the next time you see an ad on tv, online or on your high street. Last but not least, the game kicks off at 8 pm BST on Saturday. Enjoy!


Find out more about Arman's research with this short video on YouTube, his article on The Conversation; or read the extended academic version in Behavioural Public Policy.


* Odds are subject to change at all time. All numbers quoted are for illustrative purposes only.


Header image by Prakash under licence CC BY_ND 2.0

Posted in: Consumers, Research, Research4Good


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